Is Colloidal Silver Safe to Use?
Overall, colloidal silver’s record of safety is similar to any other nutritional supplement. But according to the experts there are some pitfalls – particularly when colloidal silver is used abusively. We’ll take a look at that topic in this article...
Hi, Steve Barwick here, for www.TheSilverEdge.com...
Is colloidal silver safe to use?
This is probably the most frequently asked question I get from people interested in using colloidal silver.
But many people tend to couch that question in terms that indicate to me what they really want to know is “Can I use as much colloidal silver as I want, safely?”
I tend to re-word the question for them, by asking, “Do you mean you want to know if it’s safe to take excessive or abusive amounts of colloidal silver?”
Hopefully, that way they’ll understand there is such a thing as taking excessive or abusive amounts.
This is important, because some people tend to become obsessive about colloidal silver usage, taking larger and larger amounts over long periods of time.
I’ve never understood this. But I’ve seen it. So I’d like to address that topic in this article, from a journalistic perspective.
Of course, I’m not a doctor. I’m a natural health journalist. So I can’t vouch for the safety (or lack thereof) of any substance.
All I can do is report on what I’ve learned as a journalist in the course of some 15 years of journalistic research and writing on natural health topics, including interviews with many hundreds of colloidal silver users and natural health advocates, and of course, using colloidal silver extensively myself during this time.
Colloidal silver is sold in just about every health food store in America, and throughout Canada and Mexico, parts of Europe as well as by hundreds of online vendors worldwide.
Millions of people use it annually. And its safety profile is considered to be similar to any other nutritional supplement. If used as directed, as a mineral supplement, it’s generally considered safe.
What’s more, throughout Europe preparations of silver (generally in the form of colloidal silver) are used worldwide as a water disinfectant, to help prevent microbial contamination.
It’s also been used in municipal drinking water systems to reduce excessively high microbial counts.
And it’s even been used by the NASA and Russian space programs to help prevent contamination of the water supply.
What’s more, it’s widely used as a water disinfectant in homes throughout countries like Mexico and others, as evidenced by this news report from The Silver Institute, an organization that reports on the many uses of silver worldwide:
“Since 1955, with the approval of the Ministry of Health of Mexico, Microdyn, a silver colloid, with a particle size of about 2 manometers, has been used to provide healthful water for its citizens.
‘A few drops of Microdyn available in small bottles provides sufficient silver to disinfect clear drinking water in about 10 minutes,’ states Luis Arizcorreta Buchholz, president of Roland de Mexico, S.A, de C.V, Mexico D.E, Mexico.
‘It’s a convenient disinfectant for individual use in areas wherever tap water is suspect.
…Its use is credited with a dramatic improvement in the health of the residents of the town of Cruz Azul, Lagunas, Oaxaca, Mexico, who for years had suffered rampant gastroenteritis.
The introduction of a Microdyn coating to the town's water supply cisterns in 1977 made the difference. Other local water supply systems treated with Microdyn achieved similar results.”
Potters for Peace, as well as other organizations that help provide safe drinking water in developing nations have been infusing colloidal silver into ceramic water filters for years. This, as a means of giving poor people in remote villages where there’s no running water, access to clean, safe water disinfected of any potentially harmful microbes.
And for decades here in North America a number of companies have manufactured and sold home water filters infused with colloidal silver, to help keep germs and other potentially harmful microbes from fouling the water supply.
The list goes on and on, but I think you get the point: Colloidal silver has been used in numerous ways, widely – and quite safely – for decades.
There’s No Such Thing As a “Safe”
Nutritional Supplement If Used Abusively
That said, there’s no "safe" nutritional supplement on the face of the earth, if a person uses it in excess.
For example, experts say the mineral iron, if used in excess, will cause your body’s tissues and organs to accumulate iron, and eventually your tissues and organs will begin to "rust" (for lack of a more scientific term) causing untold damage to the body.
It is said the mineral selenium, if used in excess, will cause nervous system damage, convulsions and even death.
Similarly, the mineral calcium, if used in excess, will cause calcification of soft tissue within the body, cellular toxicity and even heart disease.
Excessive use of vitamin A can cause liver damage, anemia and other problems.
I could go on and on, through each and every nutritional supplement on the market. But once again, I think you get the picture.
According to experts, all of these above-mentioned substances are highly beneficial to the human body when used within reason. And all of them are potentially harmful when used in excess.
Nutritional supplements – including colloidal silver -- are used daily, for years on end, by millions upon millions of people, with practically zero harm when used as directed, and with common sense and sanity.
But there’s not a single substance on earth that can’t cause harm to the human body at some excessive or obsessive level of usage.
As Paracelsus, a physician living over 400 years ago who is often referred to as the "Grandfather of Pharmacology,” wisely observed, “The dose is the poison.”
In other words, a little bit might be very beneficial, but too much can be toxic.
Same For Colloidal Silver – Use Common Sense!
Point being, like any other supplement you should use colloidal silver wisely, with mature discretion.
If you were taking a daily multi-vitamin/mineral supplement, and it made you feel better, you wouldn't say to yourself, "Well, one capsule a day of this supplement makes me feel great, so I think I'm going to start taking a half bottle per day." Right?
Your common sense would override that impulse as being unreasonable. Same with colloidal silver.
If you take a teaspoonful of colloidal silver per day, or as some do, up to an ounce a day, and it makes you feel better, you wouldn't start drinking an entire 8 ounce glass of colloidal silver a day for the rest of your life, just because the standard daily dose made you feel better. Right?
Unfortunately, some people who take colloidal silver do exactly that. They get on the internet and find web sites on colloidal silver written by numbskulls who claim you can take colloidal silver daily, at ANY dosage level you want, for the rest of your life, and it won't cause any harm. And they begin drinking it in high daily dosages as if their very life depended upon it.
But the idea that colloidal silver is safe no matter what amount you drink, or how long you drink it, is utter poppycock, of course.
And you’d likely recognize it as poppycock if you were reading that you could safely take an entire bottle of vitamins per day, or an entire bottle of laxatives per day, or eat an entire bag of sugar per day.
But for some reason, some people honestly believe you can drink all of the colloidal silver you want, and it can’t hurt you. They don’t recognize it as poppycock when it pertains to colloidal silver. Why? I honestly just don’t understand it.
Once again, the truth is, anything you overindulge in on a regular basis will cause problems at some point. Maybe not in six months, or one year, or even two years. But at some point down the line it's going to result in a problem.
Let’s look, from a journalistic perspective, at some of the potential problems that could occur with excessive, long-term colloidal silver usage:
That Thing Called Argyria
According to the EPA (see quotes in this article), the main problem with colloidal silver is that when taken in excess for long periods of time, argyria can result.
Apparently, the body gets overwhelmed with silver particles and will start storing some of the excess silver particles inside the tissues.
In medical studies, researchers have demonstrated that the silver can accumulate in outer layers of tissue, and even in organs. (This is true, by the way, for just about any mineral supplement used in excess, including iron, copper, selenium, etc.)
But for some reason, with silver, the body will start trying to push the excessive silver accumulation out to the skin, which is your body's third major organ of elimination. (For example, this is why kids get pimples; the body pushes toxins out to the skin to get rid of them.)
But unlike other substances that might get stored in the body and even pushed out to the skin, the tiny submicroscopic silver particles end up getting sequestered in the skin, tightly bound to sulfide groups in the tissue.
And because silver tarnishes when it's exposed to bright light, any exposure to sunlight can literally turn the silver-embedded skin gray, and sometimes even blue.
This is called argyria, or silver skin staining. And according to researchers in the Environmental Protection Association it’s the chief side effect of long-term excessive use of colloidal silver, or silver of any kind.
Here’s an excerpt from what EPA has stated in their document titled “Silver (CASRN 7440-22-4)”:
“The critical effect in humans ingesting silver is argyria, a medically benign but permanent bluish-gray discoloration of the skin.
Argyria results from the deposition of silver in the dermis and also from silver-induced production of melanin.
Although silver has been shown to be uniformly deposited in exposed and unexposed areas, the increased pigmentation becomes more pronounced in areas exposed to sunlight due to photoactivated reduction of the metal.
Although the deposition of silver is permanent, it is not associated with any adverse health effects. No pathologic changes or inflammatory reactions have been shown to result from silver deposition.
Silver compounds have been employed for medical uses for centuries. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, silver arsphenamine was used in the treatment of syphillis; more recently it has been used as an astringent in topical preparations.
While argyria occurred more commonly before the development of antibiotics, it is now a rare occurrence. Greene and Su (1987) have published a review of argyria.”
[Underlining mine. – ED]
Some experts say long-term colloidal silver users should watch for the pink of their gums to start turning grayish blue, indicating excessive colloidal silver usage.
Other say the lunula of the fingernails (the little white part at the bottom of your fingernails that looks like a half moon) will begin to become discolored, once again indicating excessive colloidal silver usage.
According to these experts, if you initially see that kind of skin staining occurring in those areas of your body, it’s an indication you’re taking too much colloidal silver and should refrain from further usage.
What’s more, according to the experts, argyria is like a permanent tattoo of the skin. Sometimes small patches of argyria occur in different places on the body. And sometimes a person's entire facial area can become stained. So can one's hands and feet, as the body tends to push excess silver to the extremities for some reason.
What's more, there’s no "cure" for agryia. The skin staining is widely considered to be permanent. According to clinical studies I’ve read, even chelation therapy, which helps draw minerals from the body, is ineffective for removing argyria.
However, the good news is this:
In recent years some intrepid medical researchers have found that using a form of laser tattoo removal can get rid of many cases of argyric skin staining.
And there are now at least two practitioners I've recently become aware of in the U.S. who have successfully used the laser tattoo removal technique to help get rid of argyric skin-staining.
I’ll write more about that topic in future issues of this ezine.
Other Potential Problems With Excessive Colloidal Silver Usage
Some experts also say excessive use of colloidal silver over long periods of time can harm kidney function through some kind of unexplained toxic effect.
While there have been no clinical studies I know of to prove this, there is some strictly anecdotal information, i.e., patients who have been found through blood tests to have kidney function problems, and who were also taking large amounts of colloidal silver for long periods of time.
Colloidal silver tends to get the blame in rare cases like this, even though the person may also have been a heavy drinker, or may have been taking prescription pain medications that can harm the kidneys, or may have been doing any number of other things that can harm the kidneys.
As soon as a doctor hears "I'm taking colloidal silver," it seems the silver automatically gets blamed and all other potential causes (particularly doctor-prescribed medications) tend to be ignored.
As Dr. Gary Connett wrote in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine in 2007, "Case reports have described possible nephrotoxicity and neurotoxicity, but these have not been substantiated by studies in animal models." (See J R Soc Med 2008: 101: S51–S52. DOI 10.1258/jrsm.2008.s18012.)
In other words, doctors have speculated that silver usage has caused harm to human kidneys and the human nervous system based on individual case reports, but that speculation has apparently not yet been proven to be true when silver is actually tested on animals to see how it affects the internal organs.
This doesn’t mean the colloidal silver is being unjustly blamed. It just means that at this point, there’s only anecdotal information to support the idea that excessive colloidal silver usage can damage kidney function. So we await a good clinical study to clarify if it’s true or not. And meanwhile, for the sake of safety, it’s always best to err on the side of caution.
Are there other potential problems with taking excessive amounts of colloidal silver? There’s one study that says an 80-some year old man using relatively large amounts of colloidal silver daily for a long period of time started having monoclonal seizures.
Of course, the doctors blamed the silver. But did it actually cause the seizures? To the best of my understanding, the doctors weren’t able to explain a pathway through which orally ingested colloidal silver could cause such seizures. And there have apparently been no other verified clinical cases of colloidal silver usage being associated with seizures.
Web sites such as WebMD.com are now claiming that colloidal silver usage “might” interfere with the body’s uptake of thyroid medication or certain antibiotics. Here's what WebMD says about colloidal silver and thyroid medication:
"Colloidal silver might decrease how much levothyroxine the body absorbs. Taking levothyroxine along with colloidal silver might decrease the effectiveness of thyroxine."
The problem is, I can't find a single clinical study that backs up the claim with clinical evidence. Not one. I've searched the internet and cannot figure out why this claim is being made. Again, that doesn’t mean it’s not true. It just means we really need to see what this claim is being based upon, in order to analyze it.
My wife takes thyroid medication, and of course uses colloidal silver from time to time. In ten years, she's never had a discernible problem with taking the two substances. However, she generally takes her thyroid meds first thing in the morning and her colloidal silver in the evening before bedtime. She doesn't take them together. So that may be why she's had no problem with taking the two. (By the way, that’s a journalistic observation, not a prescription.)
Another web site says:
"The list of drugs that have been identified as being reactive with colloidal silver includes tetracyclines, thyroxine, quinolones and penacillamine."
I find it interesting that a Brigham Young University study found quite the opposite, i.e., colloidal silver added to a number of different prescription antibiotic drugs increased the antibiotic effectiveness of the drugs.
So once again, many observers feel the jury is still out on the claim that colloidal silver interferes with the effectiveness of certain medications. But could it be excessive levels of colloidal silver that interfere with the effectiveness of certain prescription drugs? It will take additional clinical studies to sort out the truth.
Nevertheless, the point is this: Excessive usage of colloidal silver can indeed include some potential pitfalls. Like any other nutritional supplement – or any other substance on the face of the earth, for that matter -- colloidal silver should always be used in moderation, with common-sense. And it certainly won’t hurt to let your doctor know you’re using it so he can double-check the medical literature to make sure there’s no potential contraindication with your current medications. This is common sense.
Others well-known experts, like Dr. Jonathan Wright, M.D. say you should always make sure you have plenty of antioxidant nutrients in your diet when you're taking colloidal silver, to help prevent potential toxicity. According to a report from Dr. Wright:
"Silver belongs to the family of metals that also includes copper and gold (both of which can also have numerous health benefits when they're used properly). One of the primary concerns people tend to have about using these metals is the risk that they'll accumulate in the body and lead to heavy metal toxicity. But if you have plenty of antioxidants in your diet, such as selenium, vitamin E, and amino acids like N-acetyl cysteine, you're safe from any harmful effects from this family of metals. Germs, however, are not."
-- Dr. Jonathan Wright, MD
Obsessive, Abusive Use of Colloidal Silver
How often does argyria or silver toxicity occur?
Not very often. It’s estimated that tens of millions of people worldwide take colloidal silver, or are exposed to it through water disinfection processes or other means.
And to the best of my understanding from the medical literature, there are only a few hundred people at any one time who suffer from skin staining or other medical issues from silver exposure in spite of such widespread colloidal silver exposure.
As the EPA stated in the document from the quote above: “While argyria occurred more commonly before the development of antibiotics, it is now a rare occurrence.”
Many experts say the reason cases of argyria have declined – even though the public use of colloidal silver has skyrocketed – is because silver compounds that were commonly used in the early 19th century were responsible for most cases of argyria, and those silver compounds are no longer widely used. Instead, electrically generated colloidal silver is now more commonly used.
But there are still cases of argyria on the records apparently caused by usage of modern-day electrically generated colloidal silver, as evidenced by the recent colloidal silver blue man who appeared on television some years back.
In most of the documented cases I've seen written up, the individuals stricken with argyria openly admitted taking excessively concentrated batches of colloidal silver, or excessive amounts of colloidal silver, daily, for long periods of time.
In other words, it was OBSESSIVE and ABUSIVE use of colloidal silver that caused the problems.
The media tends to make a circus out of cases of argyria – parading the victims onto various television news shows – because of course becoming ashen gray, or even blue, is a very unusual thing. And frankly, it IS a big deal if it happens to you.
The important thing to understand, based upon the literature, is that it doesn't have to happen to anybody.
If people would just use colloidal silver responsibly, like they do any other nutritional supplement, argyria would very likely be so rare as to be virtually inconsequential.
But for some unknown reason, it appears that a small subset of people tend to get overly zealous about colloidal silver usage. Example: I could point out at least a half dozen web sites to you right now which people are claiming, basically, that you can take any amount of colloidal silver you want, every day of your life, and it can't harm you as long as it's "properly made."
Again, this is pure bunk. A total lie. No matter how well-made colloidal silver is, if you take too much of it for too long of a period of time, there is a potential it can cause you harm. By the way, the same is true for any substance on the face of the earth...including water (it's called "drowning").
Colloidal silver should always be used reasonably and responsibly, as a mineral supplement. It's that simple.
Colloidal silver not a cure-all. (Though thousands upon thousands of people attest to its beneficial effects. And the fact that millions of people use it says plenty about its benefits.)
And like all other substances, it's certainly not "perfectly safe at any dosage."
But the FDA has allowed it to be sold over-the-counter as a mineral supplement, because when it's used sanely, responsibly, with common sense, and not abused, its record of safety is similar to any other nutritional supplement.
This is one reason why I recommend people read the Colloidal Silver Safe Dosage report, which is available FREE by email at this link.
This report discusses a formula for using the official EPA figures for the amount of silver they believe can safely be ingested by the human body on a daily basis over the course of a lifetime without argyria or other toxic effects.
The report takes those figures, and very conservatively shows you how to calculate your daily dosage rate based upon your own body weight.
All of that said, colloidal silver is considered by most nutritional supplement advocates to have a favorable safety profile. Like all other nutritional supplements or natural substances, its safety lies largely in the hands of the user.
I’ve discussed this topic many times in the past in articles like this one. And I’ll continue to discuss this topic again, in future articles, even though it makes me quite unpopular with some people. But I think the truth deserves to be told.
So until the next issue of this ezine, I remain…
Yours for the safe, sane and responsible use of colloidal silver,
Important Note and Disclaimer: The contents of this Ezine have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Information conveyed herein is from sources deemed to be accurate and reliable, but no guarantee can be made in regards to the accuracy and reliability thereof. The author, Steve Barwick, is a natural health journalist with over 30 years of experience writing professionally about natural health topics. He is not a doctor. Therefore, nothing stated in this Ezine should be construed as prescriptive in nature, nor is any part of this Ezine meant to be considered a substitute for professional medical advice. Nothing reported herein is intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. The author is simply reporting in journalistic fashion what he has learned during the past 17 years of journalistic research into colloidal silver and its usage. Therefore, the information and data presented should be considered for informational purposes only, and approached with caution. Readers should verify for themselves, and to their own satisfaction, from other knowledgeable sources such as their doctor, the accuracy and reliability of all reports, ideas, conclusions, comments and opinions stated herein. All important health care decisions should be made under the guidance and direction of a legitimate, knowledgeable and experienced health care professional. Readers are solely responsible for their choices. The author and publisher disclaim responsibility or liability for any loss or hardship that may be incurred as a result of the use or application of any information included in this Ezine.